Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Ring that bell

That is curious. All of my conservative friends just started drooling at the same time. Oh, I see, they were just reading an article about the liberal main stream media. Pavlov never tried his bell on elephants but it seems to work on them also.

Journalism digs deeper into niche
Bruce Kesler
Augusta Free Press Online

As usual the continued opinionating on the demise of the Main Stream Media (MSM) leads the subjective evaluators to their desired conclusion - The MSM is too liberal and their stubbornness in not correcting this abhorrent behavior is killing them. Well, if this nugget of information was closer to the one hundredth time that it has entered my brain then it is to the one millionth time it might appear to be closer to a golden truth then it does to a foolish farce.

Actually the point in making this simplistic argument is more for the sake of the implied solution then it is for identifying the real problem. The impure logic goes something like this. If reporting by the MSM is too liberal and this has caused it to lose the attention of the listener then to attract more listeners they should become more conservative in their reporting. This always unproven argument, even if it was valid, is so overtly over simplistic that the only people who accept it without question are its advocates in the Republican party and the mooing heard that listens to them.

The problem with the MSM - for those who are really interested in an objective and rational discussion on the subject - cannot be encapsulated by a phrase like "too liberal" any more then the education problems in America can be encapsulated by the phrase "bad teachers". The reason that the old shaky hands which still guide the MSM haven't been seduced by this simplistic argument is that they see it for the self serving straw-man that it is. They realize that those people who are shouting "the MSM is too liberal" the loudest are the ones who are least concerned with finding the truth through objectivity. Instead these biased voices would rather have the MSM project their perceptions directly to their constituents and desired converts.

In truth - for those who prefer reality over perception - the source of the problems with the MSM has little to do with a liberal bias. The source of these problems are more accurately explained by considering the strict market forces that are being applied to the MSM in an age when real time information is readily and cheaply available. And, in my opinion, anyone who discusses the demise of the MSM by placing the mouse sized liberal argument above the elephant sized market based ones has shown themselves to be biased, self serving, and unworthy of the listeners attention.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

When we all win some see a loss

Filibuster Follies
May 23, 2005

In the comments on the above post Jeff is asked why the filibuster compromise is being spun as a loss for the Republicans? Jeff then says,

"It's being seen as a loss because it ties the Republicans' hands during the Supreme Court fights, which is what this was always about."

My reply to Jeff:
How does a simple piece of paper tie their hands? What is to stop the Republicans from applying the nuclear option, or the more politically correct "constitutional option", for a specific Supreme Court nominee. If the Democrats use their extraordinary case filibuster option then the Republican leader, and his faithful, can simply make the case that this does not meet the criteria of an extraordinary case - the fight will again be on because the contract will be null and void.

Then, with the Republican base fully energized over getting one of their own on the Supreme Court the count down to that much desired right wing nuclear winter will have begun and in short order be realized.

One point was made very clear with the winding ethical path that the Republican leadership cut to circumvent the 214 year filibuster tradition - No standing rule, no precedent, no piece of paper can stand in their way when they continue their mission to do what is right for all of America.

What reasonable argument can be made, with what has transpired over this last few weeks, that a piece of paper, signed by moderate and rational minds, will prevent what 214 years of tradition almost failed to do? There is no reasonable agrement that will support this case because nothing about the last few weeks has been about reason and rationality - it has been about ideology and power.

What you and many other team sport Republicans and Democrats have been missing is the real statement that is being made by the rational 14 - the idea that the federal government is here not only to give a voice to all of the people but to hear that voice. The picture that you seem blinded to is the one painted by the questions that were raised by the rational 14. Questions such as: "Why can't the Legislative and Executive branches attempt to serve all of America?"; "Why don't we try, as the founding father's intended, to serve both the majority and the minority in this republic?"; "Why can't the Executive Branch make an honest attempt to confer with all parties in the Legislative Branch before submitting the names of non-elected life time appointees?"; "Why, in this democracy, is it worthy of any majority party to impose their rule on everyone without first attempting to reach a meaningful consensus?"

You see Jeff, in the end, the words written on a piece of paper only have meaning to people of honor and principle. As I see it the only way a 214 year tradition could disappear in one vote on an average American day, with all the extreme challenges that our country has been through in these last two centuries, is if at least 50 senators and one vice president fell very short on the scale that measures the honor and principle of men. Thankfully 14 men and women showed the higher levels that this scale can reach.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

His "Freedom Crusade" means our children

Political Animal
Kevin Drum
May 10, 2005

"Bush is a master of using codewords in his speeches, and inserting Yalta into this speech wasn't a casual decision. It was there for someone. Who?"

My view on the Yalta reference in Bush's speech:


Bush's Yalta comments in this speech were meant primarily for the American people. The purpose of these comments is to create a new neo-con reality for the American mission in the 21st century. This projected reality is consistent with the rhetoric and actions of this administration since 9/11. Below is a revealing comment that Bush made in this speech:

"Yet this attempt to sacrifice freedom for the sake of stability left a continent divided and unstable."

It seems as though the neo-cons want to have a better justification to sanctify future preemptive confrontations based solely on "spreading democracy and liberty". It is as though they are trying to make a case for preemptive war that does not require them to stretch the truth (or lie) by directly tying it to the war on terror. In the minds of the neo-cons we should all agree that the "World Freedom Crusade" is America's true mission and that we should no longer be content with the old post Yalta mission of "America First".

My problem with this new ideology is that Bush, and his administration, has made no real attempt to enlist the world in the "World Freedom Crusade". If he was successful at first persuading the rest of the world to support this mission then, at least in my mind, it would no longer be the "World Freedom Crusade" but become the "World Freedom Movement". A movement based on shared sacrifice. In my opinion shared sacrifice is an essential ingredient for a movement while sole sacrifice is the main ingredient of a crusade. Unfortunately the neo-cons do not see a problem with America providing the sole sacrifice in this "Freedom Crusade" - as long as it is the soul of another non elite that is being sacrificed.

As a father of two my opinion is that there is no way that the American population is going to exclusively sacrifice their children in a "Freedom Crusade" to bring one man's view of democracy to the rest of the world. The children of this country are not fodder to feed the legacy of one man or his party.

Friday, May 06, 2005

How not to have a rational debate

Joe in DC had this to say:

Kerry Smacks his own state's Married Gay couples
by Joe in DC - 5/6/2005 08:51:00 AM

Maybe if John Kerry would take a stand on an important social issue, his stature might increase....and, for crying out loud, Masssachusetts already has gay marriage. Hundreds of gay couples have been married. And John Kerry doesn't think the Democratic Party should support their rights?

My comment to Joe:
Feeling anger with the course of action that Kerry is trying to chart for the Democratic party on this issue only highlights the rigidity (by some) that has allowed this party to be splintered so easily. A weakness, no doubt, that enables Rove to have a skip in his step.

Stop letting the Republicans control the argument by falling into their conservative populist trap with the term "Marriage". Battling the Republicans with this term, and the conservative traditions that it invokes, immediately seeds them victory on this issue for decades.

The term "Civil Union" provides the Democratic party with an unpaved road from which they can pave the rights of marriage for any two consenting adults. Will time and laws be needed to secure these rights? Yes. But the Democratic party will have positioned itself to begin to win elections today. In time the only difference between "Married" and "Unioned" will be the letters in these two words.

The term "Marriage" is a road paved in traditional concrete. Any attempt to resurface this road will bring nothing but a smile from present and future Republican Rove's. Will we eventually win this argument? I don't know - the view becomes foggy when I try to peer more then 20 years into the future. But one thing is very clear - this issue will be one more wedge with which the Republicans can shear off the votes of moderate voters.

Finding the middle and achieving success does not mean Democrats have to insist on getting what they want, the way they want, today. It means building a party and structuring a message that takes them where they want to go.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

David Brooks cracks his verbal whip

Stuck in Lincoln's Land
New York Times
Published: May 5, 2005


The above editorial by the conservative columnist David Brooks is a perfect example of how an elitist can manipulate his audience. Or, to be more visually meaningful - How he heards the human cattle of America to a place where they can serve the current incarnation of his party.

I could spend thousands of words taking this article apart and explaining all the slight of hand word play and psychological human tricks that this right wing conservative uses to drive his cattle to market. However, since my point in making these comments is to enlighten the reader on the nature of propaganda it will be enough to speak to the very first instance that I encountered in this editorial, namely:

"I like to think about this episode when I hear militant secularists argue that faith should be kept out of politics."

This attacking statement made by Brooks is misleading because the charge being made is too general to even have a basis from which to be argued. One of the reasons that this statement is so general results from his use of the word "faith" in an extremely ambiguous way.

So, let us start with the definition of the word "faith" as described by the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary:

Faith Defined:
1 a : allegiance to duty or a person : LOYALTY b(1) : fidelity to one's promises (2) : sincerity of intentions

2 a (1) : belief and trust in and loyalty to God (2) : belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion b (1) : firm belief in something for which there is no proof (2) : complete trust

3 : something that is believed especially with strong conviction; especially : a system of religious beliefs

synonym see BELIEF

The question that immediately comes to my mind is which definition of "faith" is Brooks using in his charge? For instance, by using the numerous meanings of this word from the dictionary entry above his elusive charge could be accurately translated to:

I like to think about this episode when I hear militant secularists argue that "belief in God" should be kept out of politics.

I like to think about this episode when I hear militant secularists argue that "religious beliefs" should be kept out of politics

Or finally:
I like to think about this episode when I hear militant secularists argue that "beliefs" should be kept out of politics

This ambiguity of meaning is being done purposely by Brooks. It allows him to use any evidence that he wishes to justify his adolescently contrived argument - if, by chance, he is ever challenged to give proof.

The desire on his part not to be out maneuvered in a potential debate stems from the image that Brooks wishes to convey to the public. You see Brooks wishes to project himself as an educated man of reason who stands above the average partisan mud slinger. Ideally he would like us to believe that it is his honest mission to speak to us openly and honestly about the conservative agenda. To perform this one man balancing act he must attempt to stay above the fray so that he can continue to communicate to us through the objective main stream media outlets.

Well, lets get back to a discussion of his original charge and its propaganda potential. A good piece of propaganda requires both an evil inspired agressor (them) and an innocent victim (us). As I have already mentioned the victim, from the sympathetic readers eyes is obviously the one who identifies with the ambiguous, yet positive, word "faith". Which, as I imply above, could include almost anyone. This inclusiveness has been done purposely. With political propaganda it is best if you can appeal to the majority - especially when you are constrained by a democracy. Obviously the evil aggressor is the "militant secularist". The devil possessed Snidely Whiplash to the angelic Dudley Doright - so to speak.

Brooks, in even a veiled attempt to keep this article as impartial as possible, didn't even feign objectivity by merely attacking "secularist" - whatever form that blob like monster would take in his mind. No, he had to make the already formless enemy more evil by putting the meaningless, but invective, word "militant" in front. Personally I have not seen any news reports about militarily equipped groups that have organized their forces of secular troops to impose their evil secularity on America. Obviously "militant secularist" is a Brooks phrase that he wants his readers to replace visually with the phrase "godless communist" - see how those in his line of work think. As intended this propagandist phrase is meant to demonize the opposition and provide a source of anger for the perceived victims.

The important idea for the reader to keep in mind is that with elitist like Brooks it is not the charge, and the validity of an actual argument, that is important. If it was he would make a specific charge and then prove it with consistent evidence. No, what ultimately is important to those of his perceived enlightened persuasion is the complete control and prodding of the audience to get them to move in the desired direction. His words are his whip and the proper direction of the cows is his goal. The words, like the whip, are just a tool. Since he understands us cows to be slightly more cognizant then the actual ones this tool must be shaped with words that disguise its actual purpose.

The real purpose of this editorial is to push (heard) the reader in the same way that propaganda has as its purpose to move the people - without the undesired burden, and time consuming act, of having to persuade through leadership and the use of rational reasoning and fair debate.

In reality this baseless charge by Brooks is not about informing the public about an injustice. Its objective is to support the ruling class elites in the Republican party that make up his constituency. What it demonstrates is the belief, by those like Brooks, about the effectiveness of enlisting people to your side by using words to play to their fears and prejudices. For those with his cynical view of the average American producing a thinking army of Camelot knights is far too difficult and time consumming. He finds it much easier and efficient to produce an army of Don Quixote's by using his words to turn windmills into dragons.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

On Science and Religion

I find something fascinating about the religiously motivated scientific amateurs who attempt to dismiss evolution. I am constantly amazed when they, untrained and biased, feebly attempt to dismiss a scientific theory by using their limited understanding of scientific methods and information. Seems to me a little like someone skipping the inconvenient and time consuming task of attending medical school and simply calling themselves a surgeon. Of course the potential patients are not persuaded when the so called surgeon explains that he is qualified to do their heart surgery because he, all by his self, dissected a frog while in high school.

The reason for this religious repulsion to the scientific theory of evolution is simple. Evolution provides a theoretical explanation of mans appearance on this earth that does not allow part of the Bible to be taken as literally true. Since the literal interpretation of the Bible seems to be a necessary and unquestionable certainty to a segment of the religious community the offensive theory of evolution must be compromised and obfuscated.

A few weeks ago I was speaking with a minister who, since childhood, has loved finding and collecting fossils. Now as a 60 plus year old adult he has obtained fossils of all kinds that he has put on display throughout his home. While he was showing me and my family his impressive display he felt compelled to explain to us that even though people have been told by scientist that these dinosaur fossils were more then 65 million years old they, in actuality, could not be older then 65 hundred years. His reason for this huge disparity between these two approximations was simple enough to explain. If you share his current religious beliefs and you take the Bible to be literally true then - after summing up various time periods specified in the Bible - you find that the existence of everything was created about 65 hundred years ago.

Possibly because he knew that I had an education that went beyond high school the minister felt compelled to scientifically qualify this theory further. The theory, I might add, that quite conveniently allowed his life long love of fossils to coexist with his life work in religion. However, instead of using science to prove his 65 hundred year theory of everything he attempted to question current scientific methods that run contrary to the theory that he holds true. He did this by explaining to me how the science of carbon dating - the scientific method to approximate the age of once living fossils - is not scientifically based. I will not go into the details of this explanation because, to be honest, his unqualified scientific explanation of why carbon dating is not scientific seemed a bit like accepting the skills of that surgeon whose qualifications consisted of dissecting a frog in high school.

The real story here is the same one that has been playing out since the beginning of human religious history. When ones current religious beliefs encounter an obstacle to the reality that those beliefs create, and a reality that the believer feels comfortable with, that obstacle must be removed. Not so long ago the obstacles were more easily purged. The church would declare the speaker of such an abominations a heretic and off to jail, or away to his eternal punishment, that heretic would go. Today, in America, it is not so easy - although there are some who look on the past with nostalgia.

Apparently the long range plan by some in the literal religious community seems to be to discredit "objective science" by using "their science". Of course, as we all should remember, the tobacco industry once had "their science" that for years showed that cigarette smoking did not cause cancer.

Unlike others who would purposely compromise science for monetary gains the authentic literal religious community is not so motivated. What is driving them is the all to human desire to keep the earth and man at the center of Gods universe. Being human I can understand this reaction - as I suspect did Galileo.